The making of a steamy environmental portrait

Here in Bend, OR, we have a plethora of mobile food carts, micro-breweries, and micro coffee houses. This is a good thing. We love to support small local businesses and enjoy the hand-crafted taste of our daily pleasures. Dave is the owner of Backporch Coffee Roasters and he's a quirky, friendly, creative guy that makes you feel welcome when you walk in his café door. He knows his coffee and Backporch is up there with the best coffee roasters I've discovered. They roast it fresh right there in his shop. Yum. 

I wanted to do a portrait of Dave that captured his unique character and coffee "guru-ness" while keeping it playful and not too serious. We setup in one of his coffee shops just after closing time and got to work building a couple scenes. The first image of him sitting on the coffee beans took a bit of prep work as we had to move around several bags of green coffee beans - each weighing 125 lbs. I composed the shot carefully so that his coffee cup in hand would be positioned cleanly over the black roaster, his head would be in a clear spot on the wall, and all the important elements were visible. To help Dave stand out from the relatively busy background, I used a 24mm f1.4 lens, set to f1.4 to soften it as much as possible with a wide angle POV. 

The main light on Dave's face was a Photoflex extra small Octodome on a Nikon speedlight. The small octo is perfect when you want a directional light source that doesn't spill too much and yet still has a soft quality to it. I used another speedlight with a Rogue Grid in the back to light up the black roaster. I wanted Dave to be "steaming" like a fresh, hot cup of joe, so my assistant Derek pulled out his handy halloween fog machine that he bought on sale for $15. We set that on the ground behind Dave. I loved the final image and they wall all the elements came together with Dave's perfect expression.

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The next image was a bit simpler to setup (no moving giant bags of beans around). The café has a big glass rollup door on the front side, which lets in a lot of natural light, so we used that as the main light source - but I wanted to add a little kick to separate Dave as he enthusiastically steamed. The same Photoflex Octodome was used, but this time as a backlight/rimlight over his left shoulder. I wanted to mimic the existing light as much as possible, but boost it where needed. We had a blast making Dave's portrait and discovered that raw bags of coffee beans make comfortable, albeit expensive, lounge chairs.

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